While writing about Toriana, a steampunk version of Victorian America in an alternate universe, I often have to move, change or sometimes even eliminate pieces of our real world in order to build my own. Oddly enough I struggle most with the common details of life, such as language and food. To achieve my world-building design they can’t be an exact match to their counterparts in our world, but change or eliminate too many and the reader won’t understand what my characters are saying — or eating!
I was thinking about this when I decided on my topic for this guest post — finding alternatives to things people take for granted, aka the common things in life. Take for example those of us who are diabetic, dieting, or for other reasons can’t have sweets; we often suffer in silence through holidays. This is because there are so many sugary delights we can’t indulge in (Halloween candy and Christmas cookies, for example, are always a special torture for me.) Family and friends also often don’t know how to help out with our dietary restrictions or feel at a loss to come up with alternatives to the usual holiday candy and treats.
Valentine’s Day is probably the toughest day of the year for those of us who must abstain from sweets. Because this holiday is so candy-intensive it’s also when most people forget I can’t have sweets, too. I’ve always dearly loved chocolate in any form, but now that I can’t have it of course everyone sends me boxes of Valentine’s Day candy. Every year I probably receive between five to ten pounds of chocolates from forgetful relatives and friends. Most of it goes to kids in a local foster care program, which makes me feel a bit better about giving it away, but oh, the temptation to keep it and cheat!
If you have someone on your Valentine’s Day love list who can’t have sweets, you might try putting together one of these gifts (and before you do, check with your recipient to make sure the alternatives are acceptable under their dietary restrictions):
Cozy Night — Envelopes of sugar-free hot cocoa mix placed in a pretty mug can give your recipient a warm and cozy break without wrecking their diet. Add to this a book they can curl up with and a pair of fuzzy socks to keep their toes toasty while they read.
Movie Night — As long as it’s not sweetened low-fat popcorn is a great snack, and a box paired with a DVD and some sugar-free soda in a big popcorn bowl you’ve got everything they’ll need for an entertaining evening.
Nice Nibbles — heart-healthy nut mixes are wonderful for almost any diet, and you can find them now in boxes of little snack packs. Fill a pretty little basket with these and label it “I’m nuts about you” for them to keep on their night table or desk.
Sweet Heat — Low-fat corn chips and salsa are a great snack for the lover of all things spicy. Present with a colorful platter for the chips and a matching little server bowl for dipping.
Workout Aid — For the active recipient a reusable sports bottle along with sugar-free drink mix envelopes is great. Pair this with a new CD and give them some new music to walk, run or exercise by.
Your time is also a precious gift, and spending it with someone who can’t have the usual treats is an especially nice present. Invite your Valentine out for a nature walk, a drive in the country, a window-shopping expedition or lunch at their favorite restaurant. If you can’t be with them in person, write them a poem or a long letter and slip it in with your Valentine’s Day card.
This year as my gift I’m making my guy his favorite meal, and in return he’s taking me and our daughter out to our favorite restaurant on another night. It may not sound exciting, but with all of us working different schedules now the chance to be together and share a meal has become very special for us — and for me, being with them is sweeter than ten thousand pounds of chocolate (plus I don’t have to work up the strength to give it away!)
What is your favorite gift to give as an alternative to sweets?
DISENCHANTED & CO
Disenchanted & Co # 1
In the Provincial Union of Victoriana, a steampunk America that lost the Revolutionary War, Charmian “Kit” Kittredge makes her living investigating crimes of magic. While Kit tries to avoid the nobs of high society, she follows mysteries wherever they lead.
Unlike most folks, Kit doesn’t believe in magic, but she can’t refuse to help Lady Diana Walsh, who claims a curse is viciously wounding her while she sleeps. As Kit investigates the Walsh family, she becomes convinced that the attacks are part of a more ominous plot—one that may involve the lady’s obnoxious husband.
Sleuthing in the city of Rumsen is difficult enough, but soon Kit must also skirt the unwanted attentions of a nefarious deathmage and the unwelcome scrutiny of the police chief inspector. Unwilling to surrender to either man’s passion for her, Kit struggles to remain independent as she draws closer to the heart of the mystery. For the truth promises to ruin her life—and turn Rumsen into a supernatural battleground from which no one will escape alive.
THE CLOCKWORK WOLF
Disenchanted & Co # 2
As the proprietor of Disenchanted & Co. in a steampunk version of America, Charmian “Kit” Kittredge makes her living solving magical crimes. But when a snobbish lady begs for help, saving her reputation might very well cost Kit her life.
Doing a favor for deathmage Lucien Dredmore, Kit agrees to interview a newly widowed lady as a potential client. Upon meeting, however, she learns that the woman in question is none other than Lady Eugenia Bestly, president of the Rumsen Ladies Decency Society—someone who once led a vicious campaign to ruin Kit’s life. Ironically Lady Bestly now lives in fear herself, for the press is about to unmask her husband as the savage “Wolfman” who died while terrorizing the city.
As monstrous rampages continue to occur, Kit soon determines there is more than one Wolfman, and that they may themselves be victims of evil players. While avoiding both mechanized assassins and attempts by Dredmore and Chief Inspector Tom Doyle to take her under their protection, Kit follows a tangled path that leads from a prestigious gentlemen’s club fronting a hellish secret to a vengeful native tribe and dangerous, ancient magics.
Out February 25, 2014!
Ms. Viehl has another awesome giveaway packet for a VERY lucky winner.
Signed paperback copies of Disenchanted & Co. and The Clockwork Wolf (ARC)
A jeweled steampunk pendant from Aunt Matilda’s Jewelry Box
Tea Pleasures magazine
A stack of pretty notepads
A Victorian style blank journal
A lavender bling pen
My hand-quilted and beaded Victorian crazy tote
This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY
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